The UK’s Channel 4 got exclusive access to film inside an Al-Shabaab training camp, where terror recruits do somersaults to show off for their leaders and the group is excited by the boost in its bad reputation after the Westgate mall attack in Kenya. A must-see piece from reporters Jamal Osman.
Sheikh Ali Dhere, the public face of the group, told me: “We have said to Kenya many times: stay away from us, leave our land, our people and stop fighting us. We warned them again and again. They refused all of that. So we decided to spill blood to send the message.
“Their women are not better than ours. Their sons are not better than ours. Their children are not better than ours. When they kill our people we kill theirs.”
Some of the new soldiers at the graduation ceremony showed off their gymnastic skills to impress Sheik Ali Dhere.
And while the west claims that the Somali terror group’s numbers are waning, the visit was a chilling reminder that the al-Qaeda affiliate — “We are al-Qaeda,” chanted the recruits — is being all too successful in recruiting operatives from around the world.
Highly organised, these latest additions will soon decide which unit within al-Shabaab to join. They can remain regular fighters, become bomb-makers or work for the Amniyat, al-Shabaab’s security network.
But the most popular unit is the Istishhadyin unit, the suicide brigade. And believe it or not, there’s a long waiting list of several years. With months of training, only the best recruits will be accepted.
Sheikh Ali Dhere had a message for those wanting to join.
“When we fight and are martyred, we hope to be with God in paradise. What are the infidels hoping for? Nothing.”
A sad part of the piece was when Osman followed a patrol of the Al-Shabaab police, Hizbat, through the town of Bulo Burte. The terrorists try to paint an image of social order, where they order a business owner to pick up trash and check a clinic for cleanliness. But when the call to prayer sounds, they’re ready to flog anyone who doesn’t respond.
People headed to the mosque for midday prayer, whether they liked it or not. The al-Shabaab police made sure that everyone went to the mosque. Passing vehicles are pulled over.
The mosque quickly fills up, with some having to pray outside in the heat. It’s a good opportunity for Sheikh Ali Dhere – this time in civilian clothes – to drum up more support.
“It’s you who are meant to deal with the infidels,” he tells the congregation. “It’s you who should defend Islam. God willing, we’ll be victorious. Victory is close. The infidels haven’t got much left. They are in the eleventh hour.”